Thursday, June 20, 2024

Jean Grey Searches for Answers

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In her first solo issue, Jean Grey fought perennial whipping boys the Wrecking Crew while she tried to minimize collateral damage. By the time the rest of the X-team arrived, she was KO’d by the badguys, but not before having a vision of the thing she dreads most: The Phoenix. Will this younger Jean Grey fall victim to the Phoenix the same way her older counterpart did? Not if she has anything to say about it.

You’re On Your Own

The issue opens on Jean getting checked out by the older, hairier version of Hank McCoy. She swears she saw the Phoenix, but there just isn’t any evidence to prove it‘s present. Hank’s Phoenix Finder™ doesn’t show any godlike cosmic forces anywhere in the vicinity of Earth. As commander of Alpha Flight, Captain Marvel is there too, as well as Kitty Pryde, the leader of the X-Men Gold team. None of them believe her. Jean knows what she saw and isn’t about to let it get her.

And by “Cool” I mean totally lame.

Jean hatches a plan. She hops on Cerebro, and communes with a selection of other mutants. These are all people who’ve been host to the Phoenix Force before. She wants to talk to each of them and find out what it was like. Maybe she can learn something from their experiences that will help her avoid it altogether. She calls to Quentin Quire, otherwise known as Kid Omega, Rachel Gray, the AU daughter of Scott Summers and the original Jean Grey, Colossus and Magik, a powerful pair of mutant siblings, and Hope Summers, the daughter of Cable. Except that when she calls to Hope, Jean finds out that Hope is in some serious trouble.

Why’d it Have to be Reavers?

Jean rushes out to help Hope Summers, who is a captive of the Reavers, a group of cybernetically enhanced very bad people who are enemies of her dad, Cable. She frees Hope (and all of Hope’s guns) and they are promptly set upon by more Reavers. It turns out to be a whole hive. They are just about to be overcome when the rest of the mutants Jean had contacted miraculously show up to help.

…and things get all splodey.

Jean and her newly assembled Phoenix Five try to explain the ins and outs of hosting the Phoenix Force while they kick some Reaver butt. Quentin, being the antisocial scamp that he is, decides it would be easier to just show her. He uses a psychic weapon to mess with Jean’s head and show her the insides of everyone else’s since the Phoenix Force came and went. It more or less adds up to something along these lines:

This is Your Brain on Phoenix Force.

The only one whose mind she doesn’t visit is Magik, but from what we know of her, there isn’t much that would be of help in there. None of this has given Jean any confidence in fighting the Phoenix. It will take her and mess her up. All she can do is wait for it to happen. Except Jean isn’t content to just sit and wait to be burned to ashes. There is still one other guy who was possessed by the Phoenix, and he’s just mean enough to be able to help her. But we’ll have to wait until next issue to see how that goes.

Well Balanced

This issue could have been a boring one. It could have been exposition heavy, with characters sitting or standing in a room and just talking it out. It could have been infodumpy and tedious. But it wasn’t. Hopeless and Ibáñez do a wonderful job of keeping the issue moving using the Reaver fight as a backdrop. Jean and friends fight while they talk it out and it never feels like you’re being lectured because things are happening. Seeing the other mutants in action is a lot of fun as well. Hope Summers in particular is awesome as a petite walking armory. You can tell she takes after dear old dad.

Once again, Hopeless is a master of capturing character voices. Jean in particular has a youthful petulance that rings true for her, and Quentin is as obnoxious as ever. Again, this comic that could have been noticeably heavy on information, flows in a natural organic way with the way characters interact and talk to each other. If only all set-up issues were this good.

They aren’t afraid to get meta.

The one problem we did have with this book is that it will leave some newer readers feeling a bit lost. If you’re not familiar with who these other characters are, it might be a bit overwhelming. All we are really told in this issue about any of them is that they all hosted the Phoenix at some point. If you aren’t well-read in X-Men back issues then you’ll probably be making some trips to Comic Vine real soon to find out just who these bozos even are. It’s a small complaint, though. While it’s nice to know who they are, it’s not essential to Jean’s personal journey.

A Sure Thing

We were blown away by the first issue of this new series, and while the second issue isn’t as amazing, it is still a skillfully crafted issue, and possibly the best example of how to do infodumps that we’ve ever seen. At no point did the pacing falter as Jean asked questions and searched for clues to handle being indwelt by the Phoenix. It’s fun, funny, and action packed, even as the feeling of dread for what’s to come seeps in. The art remains incredibly good, with the highlight being a full-page look into the depths of the Reaver hive. This book is gorgeous.

We’re looking forward to the next installment, when Jean meets with one of Marvel’s oldest heroes (and also one of the meanest). Will he have any answers for Jean? Or will he just be a huge dick. Find out next month!

Fandomentals Rating: 8/10 Reavers

Jean Grey #2

Writer: Dennis Hopeless

Artist: Victor Ibáñez

Colorists: Jay David Ramos & Chris Sotomayor

Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Images Courtesy of Marvel Comics and KC Green

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